Ringing in the New Year

by Serena

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Someone asked me about doing a sequel to 'Lending a Helping Hand', and I thought it would be a good idea. So this is my New Years' fic, taking place directly after the Christmas story. Song isn't mine, it belongs to Live, off the album 'The Distance to Here'.


Part One

Buffy Summers was in heaven. There was no other way to describe the peace and happiness she felt, in this place between reality and dreams. She was vaguely aware of her surroundings, the soft sheets she lay on and the smell of Chinese food that permeated the fog in her brain. She ran her hand along the cool cotton, searching for something...someone...

When she felt nothing but the sheets, Buffy became slightly worried. She opened her eyes and blearily looked around, the world at an odd angle. Through the blurriness of her eyes, she saw the beautiful intricate pattern of Angel's bedsheets, but no one next to her. Sighing, Buffy rubbed her eyes, getting rid of the sleep that lingered before propping herself up on her elbow, gazing around the darkened room.

"Angel?" she called hesitantly. A moment later, her gorgeous boyfriend appeared, his arms filled with Chinese take-out cartons.

"Yes, beloved?" he teased, setting them carefully on the bed and tossing her one of his shirts in the process. Buffy reached for one of the containers after carefully buttoning the shirt and gave him a shy grin. Angel handed her chopsticks as she opened the container.

"This is so sweet," she remarked, popping a piece of sesame chicken into her mouth. Angel smiled at her as he opened another carton containing rice.

"I figured you'd be hungry after your nap," he grinned. She smiled slyly at him.

"I am, thanks to you," she said with a wink, shifting on the bed to get closer to him. Angel smiled wickedly at her and pulled her chin up for a sweet kiss.

"I just can't seem to get enough of you," he replied.

"Well, that's good," she said, motioning for him to hand her a soda. "Because you're stuck with me. Indefinitely." She popped the tab and took a long gulp.

"That's not exactly punishment," he said sighing in contentment. And it definitely wasn't punishment, it was more like heaven... Impulsively, he kissed her softly and went back to eating his Chinese food. Buffy sighed and flopped back into the pillows. She gazed around happily before speaking.

"I'm not usually this lazy, you know," she told him, running a hand through her disheveled hair. Angel looked up at her dubiously, his trademark half-smile on his lips. "What? I'm not! I'm a little college student, we can't afford to be lazy..."

"Not very convincing, Buffy," Angel laughed. "You've been staying with me for the past four days and I don't think you've gotten out of bed other than to go to the bathroom or get food."

"Hey! Not true," Buffy said, tossing a fortune cookie at him. "I went out with Cordy a few days ago..." Angel plucked the cookie off his shirt and put it down.

"And that was just to the store, to get more of that ice cream and some whipped cream."

"Yeah, so?" she shrugged, downing more soda. "You weren't complaining the other night..."

He raised his eyebrows at her wicked smile. "Neither were you," he purred, pressing his lips to her cheek. Before she could move her head to deepen the kiss, Angel had gotten off the bed and was popping a video into the VCR. He turned on the TV and adjusted the volume before returning to the bed.

"What's this?" Buffy asked, gesturing at the television with her fork. Angel smiled at her as he chewed.

"It's called a movie. You watch the screen and there are these pictures and they talk and they tell a story. It's amazing," Angel said. Buffy shot him a look, trying to appear annoyed. One glance at his handsome face melted her, though, and she playfully hit him on the arm. He caught her hand and kissed her palm softly, keeping eye contact the whole time.

"I know what a movie is, Angel. Sarcasm really is overrated," she grinned, leaning in for a kiss. Angel shifted on the bed, settling himself against the pillows that lined the wall. He pulled Buffy to his chest, wrapping one arm securely around her. "So what are we watching?"

"Well, I asked the girl at the store and she said this was the ultimate chick flick," Angel said as he reached for Buffy's chicken.

Buffy perked up immediately. "The girl at the store? Was she hitting on you?"

Angel chuckled.

"No," he said, pressing a kiss to her forehead in reassurance. "She helped me pick this out."

"And what IS this?" Buffy asked impatiently, pushing the empty carton away.

"Ghost," Angel said. "I've never seen it and she said it would be the perfect at-home date movie."

Buffy snuggled closer to her boyfriend. "Wow, I never thought our relationship would consist of dates at home eating Chinese takeout and watching sappy movies."

"It's unbelievable, isn't it?" he whispered, nuzzling her neck. She turned her head to the side, catching his lips in a passionate kiss, feeling her body melt into his as their tongues danced. Buffy brought a hand up to caress his cheek, gliding her hand over the smooth surface while they kissed.

"I still think I'm gonna wake up and this will all be a dream..." she said as she settled herself in Angel's arms.

"If it is, I hope it never ends," Angel whispered.

"Well, it will end," Buffy said with a slight frown. "I mean, I can only tell my dad I'm staying at Cordy's so many nights before he gets suspicious. And I have to go back to Sunnydale soon and you have to stay here and--"

"You're cute when you babble," Angel said, silencing her with a kiss. She pulled away and gazed up at him with the hazel eyes he always seemed to drown in.

"What do we do?" she asked.

"Anything it takes to be together," he replied, hugging her close to him. Content with his answer, she leaned back and watched the movie with her boyfriend, for once feeling like life didn't hate her.

They were cuddling in bed after the movie when Buffy decided to bring up the subject again. "Angel?"

At Buffy's quiet tone, Angel gently twisted her in his arms so that she lay facing him. Bringing a hand up to caress her cheek, he dipped his forehead to touch hers softly.

"What is it, baby?" he asked, his eyes locked with hers. Regardless of the fact that the room was dark, he could see into her eyes perfectly.

"What are we gonna do?" she whispered. "I mean, I have to go back to Sunnydale soon. How are we gonna--"

"Shh," Angel said, pressing a finger to her lips. "We'll figure it out, we always do."

"I mean, you can't move back because of the business and I can't move here because of college," Buffy said, ignoring him. Angel sighed.

"This is really bugging you, isn't it," Angel said, the words a statement, not a question. Buffy nodded and gazed up at him.

"I think about having to leave you and it feels like I can't breath, I can't think. I don't want to have to be without you," she whispered, her voice almost desperate. "I can't live without you again, knowing what it is I'm missing."

"Oh, Buffy," Angel murmured, pulling her close to him and tucking her head under his chin perfectly. "You never have to do that again, you know that. I'm not going anywhere and neither are you."

"But--"

"Shh," Angel said, cutting her off gently. He pressed his lips to her forehead and unconsciously clutched her closer to his chest. "We'll make it work, Buffy. You can drive up here on weekends and I can drive down to Sunnydale whenever you need me. We'll talk every night, it'll be bearable."

Buffy nodded. "That's true," she said, turning her face up to look at him.

"And every time we see each other, the sex will be that much better," he joked. Buffy giggled, her breath warming his bare chest.

"You mean it can get better than it already is?" she whispered, placing a soft kiss on his jaw. He pondered her question for a moment before a devilish grin broke out on his lips.

"Guess we'll just have to wait and see," he replied playfully, reaching down to capture her lips in a fiery kiss. She responded eagerly, arching up to him in an attempt to get closer still. They remained locked in their embrace for a few long moments before Buffy broke it off to yawn loudly.

"Sorry," she said, her voice laced with sleep. "I'm gonna have to take a rain check."

She rolled to face away from him, sidling up against him, her back molding into his strong chest. He wrapped an arm around her body possessively and nuzzled her neck.

"I understand. Rest, you can make it up to me later," he whispered, nibbling on her ear playfully. She giggled and pulled his hands up in hers, wrapping them around her more. "God, I don't deserve you..."

"But you do, my love," Buffy told him, her eyes popping open. "The Powers proved that by giving you this."

"I know," Angel said. "I just can't believe it's really happening."

"Believe it, babe," she laughed, snuggling up against him. "This is definitely as good as it gets."

"Love you," Angel mumbled, his voice muffled in her hair. Buffy smiled as her eyes drooped.

"Love you more."

"Somehow I doubt that..." he replied. Buffy sighed happily and fell asleep in the arms of her lover.


"So what are we doing for New Year's?" Buffy asked the next morning as she waited for her bagel to toast. Much to Angel's dismay, she had gotten out of bed that morning and didn't plan on returning to it until late that night.

Cordelia shrugged. "Some of my fellow 'aspiring' actresses are throwing a party and I can bring guests. And I use sarcastic quotes there."

"Why?" Buffy asked, slightly confused. Cordelia shrugged.

"I thought it added drama to the sentence."

Angel pulled Buffy onto his lap and kissed her before popping a piece of scrambled egg into his mouth. Buffy noticed that Cordelia was eating standing at the counter and her brow furrowed slightly.

"Cor? You know this thing that our plates are on? It's called a table. You put your food on it and you get to sit down and enjoy--"

"You think I want to eat off that table, knowing what you two have done on it?! I have SOME dignity, you know. Plus that's just beyond gross..."

"Hey!" Buffy cried good-naturedly, trying to look stern and failing miserably. She smiled up at Angel under her lashes and quickly averted her gaze to keep from laughing hysterically. "We cleaned it off."

Cordelia shuddered. "Oh, God, Buffy! Mental pictures are SO not cool! Yuck!" she cried, her eyes squeezed shut in an effort to block out the grossness in her mind. Needless to say, it wasn't working.

Angel quirked his eyebrow at Buffy and tried not to burst out laughing. Her wiggling on his lap was becoming a problem, however, and he quickly scooped her up and placed her in her own chair to stop something from becoming a big problem.

Buffy took a calming breath. "So," she said sweetly, taking a bite of her bagel. "New Year's party?"

"Yeah, Ashlynn is having one and I can bring people. I'd say we could go to a club but they'll be swamped and you know how cramped bodies makes my hair flat," Cordelia said, walking over to the refrigerator and removing a carton of milk.

"I was kinda hoping we could spend it here," Angel said, leaning in close to her. "Alone."

Buffy raised her eyebrows. "You think I want to spend the turn of the millennium in bed? What are you thinking?!"

"He's obviously not thinking with the head on his shoulders, I'll tell you that much," Cordelia muttered, turning away from the couple again. All the PDA was making her nauseous.

"C'mon, Buffy," Angel said, leaning forward to kiss her neck. "I'll make it worth your while."

"You can make it worth my while after the party," she said sternly. Angel sighed and leaned back against his chair. She wasn't gonna budge and he knew it.

"Fine, fine, we'll go out," he sighed. "But you're not leaving here New Year's Day."

"You got yourself a deal," Buffy murmured, pulling his to her and kissing him softly. Cordelia threw her hands up.

"God, could you two try and not touch each other for five minutes?!"

"No," Buffy said with a laugh. "He's just so cute and touchable."

"And I just want to eat her up," Angel added with a smirk. Buffy quirked an eyebrow at him.

"Ooh, that has potential," she said, grinning wickedly at her lover. Angel kissed her passionately, leaving her breathless.

"Ugh, I hope you know I'm gonna have them bill you for my therapy..." Cordelia groaned. Buffy laughed and went back to eating her bagel. "Oh, Buffy, your dad called before I left. He said you have to be back at his house by eleven, he's got a surprise for you."

Buffy glanced at the clock on the wall and swore. "I only have an hour? Great," she said as she stood, shoving the rest of her bagel in her mouth. "I still have to shower..."

"Need some company?" Angel called after her. Buffy threw him a look over her shoulder.

"Later, love. If you join me, I'll never be ready in time," she said. "Besides, I don't think Cordelia would appreciate it."

Cordelia nodded in agreement. "I think it's great that you two are back together and all, but this whole nymphomaniac thing that you have going on is gross. Besides, you should be working. Gotta keep your day job, remember, Angel?"

Angel waved his hand at her as Buffy poked her head into the kitchen again, a towel draped around her neck. "I think the forces of darkness are laying low right now. They know that if we get interrupted this soon they'll be even deader," she said. Angel shooed her away.

"Shower," he commanded. "Or I'm gonna have to go in there with you and make you late."

"Maybe you should join me after all," Buffy grinned. "There are those...hard to reach places...that I think you could help me with."

Angel groaned softly. "You're killing me here, Buffy. Go shower."

Buffy blew him a kiss and disappeared. Cordelia shot him a look of disgust, but the ex-vampire didn't notice. He had a goofy grin on his face and was staring longingly at the closed bathroom door. The sounds of the shower filled the apartment as Cordelia dropped her dish into the sink and strolled into the bedroom. Angel heard the television turn on and shook his head.

"Make yourself at home, Cordelia!" he shouted. She grinned and snuggled back into the blankets.

"Already did," she replied.

"Hey Cordy," Angel said as he walked into the bedroom as well. "Buffy and I haven't changed the sheets yet and--"

"Shh!!" Cordelia said, holding up a finger and cutting him off. "If I don't hear details, it never happened. If you know what's good for you, you'll keep your mouth shut." Angel grinned at her and moved to his closet to get clothes.


Part Two

"So, Buffy, have you and Cordelia been partying all week?" Hank Summers teased when Buffy walked into her father's house.

"Yeah, that's us," Buffy smiled. "We're just girls who wanna have fun."

"Oh, before I forget...someone named Riley called? He's your boyfriend, right?" Hank said, looking back down at the paper in his lap. Buffy rolled her eyes, she had told him that she was going out with Riley when she had first arrived. It figured that her father had forgotten...

"He is for now," Buffy said, a slight edge in her tone. Hank looked up at her in surprise.

"For now?" he echoed. Buffy nodded and sighed.

"Yeah, Riley and I are probably over when I go back to school. I just don't feel the way I used to about him," she said, hoping he'd drop the subject.

Hank didn't take the hint. "Have you met someone here?" he asked, an eyebrow raised. Buffy squirmed, she hated lying to him...

"Let's just say I had some unfinished business with someone here that's become this whole big thing and leave it at that," she replied. Hank sighed.

"All right," he grumbled. "Is it, by any chance, with that Angel guy you brought over here for Christmas?" Hank remembered the way he and Buffy had looked at one another...as though they were the only two people in the world, as far as they were concerned. The smile that involuntarily flickered across her mouth at her lover's name answered his question.

"Maybe," she said dreamily. Hank often found himself forgetting that she was only eighteen, so responsible and mature she had become when she moved to Sunnydale. But the way she acted at that moment reminded him that she was still a young woman, happy and obviously in love.

"You should bring him around again. We could all have dinner one night," her father suggested. Buffy eyed him.

"What do you have planned, Daddy?"

"Nothing. I just have to make sure he's good enough for my little girl."

The softness in her eye was not lost on him as she spoke. "He is. Believe me, he is."


It turned out that Angel was free the next night to go out to dinner with Buffy and her father. Buffy hadn't been able to sneak out of her house to see him at all that day and she was feeling a sort of withdrawal from him. She missed his touch, and his kisses, and the way he would always look at her with his eyes filled of love and awe...

Buffy sighed as she pulled her new silk slipdress on. Adjusting the tiny straps, she gazed at the full-length mirror before her. The tiny pastel flowers and the white of the material contrasted sharply with her tanned skin, making it look as though she was aglow with an ethereal light. Buffy smoothed it out, loving how the simple dress clung to her every curve. Angel was going to love it...

The phone rang, interrupting the thoughts that suddenly filled her mind, of Angel and what would happen after dinner... Buffy picked it up and cradled it between her chin and shoulder.

"Hello?"

"Okay, talk," Willow said, not bothering to say hello.

"I just did," Buffy teased.

"Where in the world have you been? I've been trying for days but your dad is either not home or he says you're at Cordelia's...and then when I tried her she wouldn't tell me where you were. So get talking," Willow demanded. Buffy laughed.

"Guess where I've been."

There was a moment of silence on the other line. "Have you been with...Angel?" she asked. Buffy nodded, even though her best friend couldn't see her.

"Yeah," she said as she slipped on her sandals. "I've been staying with him for the last few days."

"Umm...how?! I mean, he's still a vampire and that whole 'one moment of true happiness and he's a bloodsucking evil demon guy' thing ruins it...not to mention the fact that you have a boyfriend and Angel and you agreed to not see each other anymore."

"Oh, well, see that's the thing. He's not," Buffy sighed, plopping down on her bed.

"He's not?" Willow echoed. "Who's not what?"

"Was that a sentence?" Buffy asked, giggling.

"Technically, yeah. Buffy, you're driving me crazy! Which isn't good, because when Wicca Girl gets crazy bad things happen..." Willow smiled. Buffy laughed.

"Just please don't make me marry Spike again," she begged.

"I will if you don't tell me what's going on in the next five seconds!" Willow threatened good-naturedly.

"Well, I'm not exactly psychic, but I bet you'll get mad that I haven't told you yet and make more threats--"

"BUFFY!"

"Okay, okay," Buffy laughed. "Don't get your broomstick all bent."

"I don't have a broomstick," Willow shot back.

"Okay, simply put--Angel's human. The curse is nonexistent."

Willow nearly dropped the phone in shock. "What?! How?! When?! Why?!"

"Angel's human. The Oracles granted him his humanity and we had to prove that we were better off together than apart. Umm...a few days before Christmas...and what was the last question?" Buffy asked, her brow furrowed as she tried to remember.

"Angel is human? Brood Boy? Cryptic Guy? The tortured vamp-with-a-soul that you love so much?" Willow repeated.

"No, Wills, I meant the other Angel that I know and love," Buffy told her sarcastically. "You remember when I came to L.A. for Thanksgiving and I went to see him, right?"

"Yeah, but you stayed for like five minutes, right?"

"No, I stayed for twenty-four hours and five minutes," Buffy replied. She sank back into her pillows and began the story.

"Wow," Willow said when she was finished. "So your dreams really happened? You and Angel had sex on his kitchen table?!"

Buffy laughed. "Yeah, we broke the damn thing. Well, the first time..."

"Oh God, I SO don't want to know..." Willow said, shaking her head. "Okay, so I do. I'm guessing there was a second time?"

"Oh yeah, on the table again. A little uncomfortable, but I forgot about it in like three seconds," Buffy said with a laugh. Willow squealed with delight.

"So I'm guessing Angel was a lot better than Parker..." Willow began. Buffy snorted.

"Do you even have to ask? You know, for having been with so many women, Parker sure doesn't seem to have the experience..." she said slyly, a wicked grin on her lips. Willow laughed.

"So what's gonna happen with you two now?" she asked.

"Well, for the rest of the semester we're gonna do the long-distance thing and visit on weekends. Then, either he'll move to Sunnydale for the summer or I'll come here, we haven't decided yet...I'm still kinda in shock that this is all happening," Buffy said, sighing happily.

"I'm glad it is," Willow replied. "I haven't heard you this happy in a long time. But what are you going to do about Riley?"

Buffy sighed. "Break up with him. When he gets back from Iowa, I'll talk to him and tell him what happened. I feel horrible about it, but I wouldn't change it for the world."

"Yeah, I know. You and Angel deserve this happiness, I'm just sorry Riley got caught up in it all."

"So am I," Buffy agreed. "But hey, now you can go out with Riley! Before we started going out there was some major sparkage between you two..."

"Buffy!" Willow shrieked. "No thanks. He's a little too dull for me...plus I'm waiting for Oz."

"Any word?"

"Not yet, but I'm feeling filled with something that resembles hope after his letter," she replied with a hint of excitement.

"I'm glad. Don't worry, Wills, he'll be back," Buffy said.

"I know. So...what has your dad said about all this?" Willow asked, shifting on her bed.

"Well, he knows that Angel and I have been seeing each other or whatever, but I don't know if he suspects anything. You know my dad, Mr. Oblivious... But my dad likes Angel, he spent Christmas with us and he's coming out to dinner with us tonight."

"And then I assume you two will head back to his place to make with the smoochies?" Willow grinned. Buffy giggled.

"You know me too well," she said. "I gotta go, Angel should be here any minute and I need to do something with this hair of mine...I'll call you later, okay?"

"If I don't talk to you, Happy New Year!"

"Thanks, you too! Oh, and Wills? Don't say anything to the others, I want to be the one to tell them what's going on."

"You got it," Willow said. "Say hello to that gorgeous boyfriend of yours for me."

Buffy smiled, Angel's face rising up in her mind's eye. "I will. Say hi to everyone for me!"

"Will do! Bye!"

"Bye, Willow."

Buffy clicked off the phone and set it down, grinning like a fool to herself in the mirror. Picking up her hairbrush, she played with a few hairstyles before deciding to just leave it down and clip it back. Angel always loved to run his hands through her hair...

She had just finished applying her lipstick when the doorbell rang. She squealed and placed the cap on it, giving herself a once-over in the mirror. Hank Summers appeared in the doorway.

"Are you ready?" he asked. Buffy nodded and smiled at her father.

"Just give me another minute," she said. Hank returned her smile, gazing at her proudly.

"You look absolutely breathtaking, Buffy." She blushed and kissed her father on the cheek.

"Thanks. Now go let Angel in, and try to be nice!"

Hank laughed and left her room, leaving Buffy alone to gather her thoughts and compose herself. She heard the front door open and close, and could barely make out their muffled voices. Glancing in the mirror one last time, she grabbed her beaded bag and headed for the door.

Angel and Hank were engaged in a quiet conversation when she entered the room. Angel immediately stood when he spotted her, his eighteenth-century manners impressing Hank. Buffy smiled shyly at him as he took in her appearance.

"You look beautiful, Buffy," he said earnestly as he quickly walked over to her and gave her a sweet kiss on the lips. Pulling back, he offered her his arm and escorted her out of the room. Hank followed, smiling slightly at the way they acted around each other.

They were so in love even he noticed it.


"I think that went well, don't you?" Buffy asked as Angel's fingers found the zipper to her dress and drew it down slowly. Angel gave her a look.

"Baby, you're ruining the moment," he said. Buffy made a face and flopped down onto the bed.

"I know, I'm sorry," she apologized. "I just really want my dad to accept you...and us." Angel's anger melted away at her sincere tone. God, he loved her...

He plopped down next to her and drew her to him. "I think he did."

The dinner couldn't have been better, as far as Buffy was concerned. Angel had been his polite self and Hank and Angel had gotten along considerably well, although Hank had given him the usual interrogation he had given all of Buffy's boyfriends. Of course, her father didn't know she was there now, he thought she was out with Cordelia at a club that had opened not far from Cordy's apartment.

"Mmm," she said, kissing him softly. "Yay us."

"Can we be rewarded right now?" her boyfriend asked, playfully nibbling her lower lip. She laughed.

"You want a cookie?"

"I want you."

Buffy sighed and pretended to be bored. "You always want me," she said with a hair-toss. Angel grinned and rolled over onto her.

"Can I help that I just find you so damn sexy and beautiful?"

She smiled up at him, softly cradling his cheek in her hand. "No, seeing as how I am would explain your feelings," she said with a smirk. Angel rubbed a hand over his eyes.

"You've been spending too much time with Cordelia," he told her. She looked up at him, eyes sparkling with mischief.

"That's just what my dad thinks."

And with that, there was no talking in the room for the rest of the night.


Cordelia sighed as she pulled a sheer blouse from her closet and put it on. Grabbing her keys, she headed for the door. When she opened it, she gasped in surprise. A guy of about twenty stood on the other side, hand poised to knock. He had reddish hair that was in need of a cut and brown eyes, and Cordelia immediately saw that he was extremely tall, towering over her even with her platforms on. She regarded him coolly. He was okay, had that boy-next-door thing going on but was kinda plain looking...

"Cordelia?"

"No, Cordelia's out at the moment. Can I take a message?" she snapped with a roll of her eyes.

"Is Buffy here?" he asked, craning his neck to get a peak inside. Cordelia effectively blocked his view.

"No, she's not. Sorry..." she paused, waiting for him to introduce himself.

"Oh. Riley, Riley Finn," he said, holding his hand out. She looked down at it disdainfully and he hastily withdrew it.

"Aren't you supposed to be in Nebraska or wherever?" she asked, wrinkling her nose. Farm boys were SO out.

"Iowa," he corrected. "And yeah, but I wanted to spend New Year's Eve with Buffy. So do you know where she is? Her father told me she was staying with you for the night..."

"You went to see Mr. Summers?" Cordelia asked, slightly shocked. He nodded.

"Yeah, that being the address she gave me and him being her father and all... You're good at not answering questions," he said with a quirked brow. She bristled slightly.

"I've had lots of practice," she retorted. Riley sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

"So are you gonna tell me where my girlfriend is or not?" he demanded. Cordelia sighed.

"Look, Riley. I don't think surprising Buffy right now would be the best idea," she said carefully.

"Why? Because of that Angel guy you mentioned when we spoke on the phone?"

"Yeah. See, him and Buffy are...well, they're..." she paused, struggling for the right words. She couldn't come out and tell him that Buffy was screwing Angel. She'd leave all the fun stuff to Buffy...

"They're what? 'Making crazy monkey love all over your office'? Is that what you told me?" he asked, smiling at her. She sighed.

"Look, I'm heading to work right now. You want to tag along so you can find your precious Buffy or whatever, fine. I'm just warning you now-you probably don't want to do this."

Riley set his jaw. "Yes, I do."

Cordelia rolled her eyes and stepped out of her apartment, locking the door behind her. Riley fell in step beside her as she began the familiar walk to the office.


Part Three

Cordelia fit the key in the lock at Angel Investigations and swiftly opened the door. Riley held it open for her as she walked through and switched on the light. He was quite the gentleman, she had to give him that. He'd held the door for her at the entrance to the building, too.

Riley looked around curiously. "Angel Investigations, huh?" he murmured to himself. "The name is pretty lame."

Cordelia shrugged and went to check the answering machine. "Angel's idea."

"Obviously," he remarked. "I thought it would be different, like those old fifties detective agencies with the name stenciled on the door and the frosted glass..."

"News flash, Fish Boy. This is the nineties," Cordelia said as she looked up, seeing Riley staring intently past her at the elevator that led to Angel's apartment. "You stay. I'll go get Buffy."

"No," Riley said, taking a step toward her. "I want to come."

"Riley. Stay," she said, her tone silencing his protests. "I'll be right back. With Buffy. Have some day-old coffee or something." She gestured at the coffee machine in distaste before walking over to the door leading to the stairs. She threw him a final glance over her shoulder before disappearing downstairs.

Cordelia walked quietly into Angel's apartment, taking note of the darkness. The love birds were probably still sleeping...

Creeping into the bedroom, she saw Buffy and Angel curled up together in bed, Angel's arm thrown over Buffy's body in a possessive manner and Buffy's back pressed firmly into his unyielding chest. She could tell, even with the sheet that was thankfully covering them, that both weren't wearing anything. Cordelia hated to wake them, but the last thing any of them needed was Riley Finn walking downstairs to find his beloved girlfriend sleeping with another guy.

"Buffy," Cordelia hissed, trying not to wake Angel. She knew he was cranky in the morning if he was woken up... The Slayer stirred but remained asleep, snuggling closer to Angel in the process. Cordelia rolled her eyes, even in sleep they couldn't seem to get enough of each other.

"Buffy!" Her voice got Buffy's attention, and she groggily rolled over and peered up at Cordelia.

" 's too early for school, Mom. Ten more minutes." The brunette sighed and gave up being quiet.

"Buffy! Wake up! Your little boyfriend from Iowa is here and he wants to make with the smoochies!" Buffy sat up abruptly, clutching the sheet to her bare chest. She ran a hand through her blond hair and looked up at her friend.

"What?!" she whispered, her eyes darting around nervously. Angel rolled over, away from her, and she quickly looked around the room for an article of clothing. Cordelia stalked over to Angel's closet and pulled one of his shirts out, tossing it at the blond.

"Put this on, get some clothes and get your ass upstairs." That said, she marched out of the bedroom to let Buffy get dressed. She was surprised to see the Slayer on her heels when she walked into the living room.

Buffy buttoned the shirt unevenly, not bothering to fix the messed up buttons. "Did you say Riley was here? Riley Finn? My boyfriend?"

"Um...unless I'm having a senior moment--which I'm not, because I'm only eighteen--yeah, that's what I said."

Before Buffy could reply, footsteps were heard on the stairs. The girls looked up, Buffy with panic written clearly on her face. She tried to smooth her hair out and fix herself to look presentable--which was impossible, considering she was wearing a shirt that barely reached her mid-thigh. Blindly, she ran in the direction of the bedroom, hoping to find her dress from last night on the floor where Angel had dropped it.

"Buffy!" Riley called as he stepped off the last stair and looked up at her. His face fell when he saw her wearing a man's shirt and nothing else. He gaped and she sighed.

"Riley. Hi. Look, this really isn't a good time, why don't you go upstairs and I'll get dressed and then--"

He pointed at her. "You're not wearing anything under that." She tugged at the hem, desperately hoping it covered her.

"Obviously," Cordelia said under her breath, leaning against the doorframe of the kitchen with her arms crossed.

"Yeah, uh...I was going to take a shower?" she said pleadingly. Riley didn't buy it in the least.

"A bathrobe usually helps. And why would you be taking a shower in your ex-boyfriend's apartment when your friend has a perfectly good one and you've been staying with her for the past week?"

"Okay," Buffy sighed. "Riley...um...we need to talk."

"Yeah, I'd say we do," he agreed, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Buffy?" Angel called as he stumbled out of the bedroom in his bathrobe. "Who're you talking to?" He rubbed a hand over his eyes and blearily looked up to see Riley staring at him coldly. He turned to Buffy. "What's he doing here?"

"I think the more important question is what are you doing here? Obviously not wearing any clothes either," Riley snapped. His gaze was furious and Buffy winced at his tone. Angel tugged the sash of his robe tighter and grumblingly kissed Buffy on the cheek before heading to the kitchen for coffee.

Riley watched the whole exchange with fire in his eyes. "I never pegged you as the cheating type, Buffy."

"Look, Riley, this isn't what it looks like." At his glare, she threw her hands up in the air in defeat. "Okay, so it is. Look, stuff happened. Lots of stuff. Angel and I are back together. There's no other way of saying it. I'm sorry."

"You're sorry?!" Riley leered. "Sorry for betraying me? Sorry for ruining my trust in you? Sorry for fucking another guy when you were supposed to be honoring me?!"

"Hey!" Angel snarled, walking out of the kitchen with a steaming mug in his hands. "That's my girlfriend you're talking to, and as long as you're in my home you'll show her some respect."

"She doesn't deserve respect! She cheated on me! With her ex-boyfriend!"

"You know, she is standing in the room and she does NOT appreciate your tone," Buffy snapped. She took a step towards Riley. "Look, Riley, I'm really sorry but I can't change the way I feel. I love Angel. I always have and I always will."

"That doesn't make what you did right," Riley shot back. Buffy threw her hands up in mock defeat.

"Did I say that? No. I know it doesn't make it right, but those are the facts. I wish it could be different, but you know what? It can't."

"Why not?" Riley demanded.

"I think she went over that already," Angel said. "She loves me. I love her. This relationship is only big enough for two people, sorry."

"You did this, didn't you? You brainwashed her or something...you took her away from me!"

Angel laughed. "Please. She was always mine, we just had some issues to work out."

"Okay," Buffy said, throwing Angel a look. "This whole male-pride thing is very entertaining and all, but there's nothing left to say. Riley, we're over." She unclasped the necklace he had given her for Christmas and thrust it at him. "Sorry I ruined your trip."

Riley stared at her hand and the necklace that lay in it. Suddenly he reached out and drew her to him, kissing her hard on the mouth. Shrieking in rage, she pulled away sputtering.

"Okay, that's it," Angel growled, stalking over to Riley and standing protectively in front of Buffy. "I think you need to leave."

"I'm not leaving unless Buffy comes with me."

Buffy laughed. "What part of 'we're over' don't you understand?" she asked, shaking her head. "I'm with Angel. Move on with your life."

Riley took a step towards her, but stopped when he saw Angel clench his hands into fists. "If you stay with him, you're throwing your life away. Come with me, Buffy, you know I'm better for you."

"Okay, you know what? You need to get over yourself. NOW. And get the hell out of here before I rip you apart for being the idiot that you are. I don't know what I ever saw in you, Riley."

Riley stared at her long and hard. "And I don't know why I ever got with a girl who let Parker Abrams sweet-talk her into bed."

With those words, he was gone.

Buffy stared after him in horror, her mouth hanging open in shock. Caught up in the passion of the moment, she didn't even realize how deeply those words had cut until she was sobbing as all the old guilt came rushing back. Angel enveloped her in his strong arms immediately, crushing her to his chest and caressing her hair as she cried.

She pulled away and wiped the rest of her tears from her face. "Sorry," she said with a sheepish grin. "I thought we were past the me-crying-all-over-you-all-the-time part of our relationship. Guess I was wrong."

"Was it me and what I said?" Angel asked, searching the hazel eyes he loved so for answers. She shook her head.

"No, that was so sweet of you. It was the Parker thing...it still hurts," she whispered. Angel nodded and held her against his chest again. She wrapped her arms around him and sighed.

"I know, baby, I know. But you don't have to think about that anymore, because we're together and he'll never bother us or you again," Angel murmured, nuzzling her neck. Buffy nodded, comforted by him.

"Well, that sure was fun," Cordelia said as she walked over to them. "I'm gonna go upstairs and make sure the creep has left. Then I have some people to call. We still on for Ashlynn's tonight?"

The couple nodded. Cordelia smiled at them and quickly left, leaving the two alone. Angel bent down, kissing Buffy softly, easing away all her pain. She responded eagerly, wrapping her arms around his neck.

"Let's spend the day in bed," he whispered against her neck. "We need to get rid of the memories of Riley."

Buffy giggled, seeming to be her old self again. "I like the way you think," she replied, allowing Angel to sweep her off her feet and carry her into the bedroom. All thoughts of her ex-boyfriend flew from her mind like Angel promised as they once again lost themselves in each other.


Part Four

"Are you sure I look okay?" Buffy asked for the tenth time, gazing at herself in the full-length mirror skeptically. She was wearing a strappy red slip-dress that hugged the curves of her body and fell to mid-thigh. Her hair was swept back in a French twist and she had just finished applying her lipstick. Angel came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, pressing feather-light kisses on her jugular.

"You look stunning, baby, as always," he murmured as he continued to suck on her neck. She pushed him away playfully.

"Angel, the last thing I need is a hickey," she laughed as she spun around and slipped into her black platforms. "Besides, we're already late because you wanted to play in the shower before. Let's go before we don't get out of here at all." Angel groaned at her words and sighed, kissing her softly before she pulled away.

"We didn't get to before, and you said you'd make it up to me..." he said, defending himself playfully. Buffy grinned and grabbed her black shawl and bag.

"And I did, didn't I?"

"Oh yeah... Are you absolutely sure you want to go?" he asked for the thousandth time, flopping down on the bed and patting it. "Because we can still stay here..."

"We're going and that's final. We won't be around for the next millennium, so come on!" Buffy cried, grabbing his hand and pulling him off the bed. He swooped down and shared a searing kiss with her.

"Beloved, you do know that the millennium isn't until next year, right?" he asked, nibbling on her ear. She nodded.

"I know, but we're still going out. And now we're even more late, so let's go. You have the address?" she asked. He nodded and offered her his arm. Buffy took it and they left for the party.

"Let's hope Y2K doesn't trap us on the twentieth floor," Buffy joked as they got out of Angel's car and walked into the building. "Doing stairs with these shoes kill me."

Angel slid an arm around her shoulder and grinned. "It's all hype."

"Let's hope so," she said as they stepped into the elevator. "Being in L.A. probably wasn't the brightest idea."

"We'd be fine in the apartment, we can still go back," Angel said, nuzzling her neck. She kissed him softly.

"No. We came to party like it's 1999 and we will. 'Cause it is." She looked confused for a moment but shrugged it off. "Whatever."

"You're so cute when you have no idea what you're talking about," Angel said. Buffy slapped his arm lightly.

"Not very nice..." she pouted. Angel caught her chin in his hand.

"How 'bout I make it up to you?" he grinned, leaning down to kiss her again. The other people in the elevator rolled their eyes and turned away from the display of affection, muttering to each other. Buffy and Angel ignored them.

The loud music assaulted them as soon as the elevator doors opened. Buffy laced her fingers with Angel's and practically pulled him in the direction of the noise. They entered to find people packed in to the space, gyrating to the music that poured from the speakers. They didn't see Cordelia anywhere, but the social butterfly would turn up sooner or later. Buffy wasted no time in leading Angel out onto the dance floor, where she pressed up against him and moved in time with the music.

"See? Isn't this better than sitting at home?" Buffy yelled over the music some time later. They had been dancing for hours, taking breaks only to get something to drink. Angel gave her a look. "Oh come on! You know you're having fun..."

"Yeah, I am. But I'd be having more fun if we were alone..." he said, leaning down to speak into her ear.

Buffy grinned at him. "Oh really...and what would we be doing if we were alone?"

"Making love over and over and over again," Angel said sensuously. "Until you couldn't even open your eyes."

Buffy exhaled sharply and moaned. "You know...I've partied enough. I'm beat. Let's go." Angel laughed and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her flush up against him. A slow song came on, the first of the evening, and Buffy laid her head on Angel's chest and listened to the steady sound she cherished as his heart beat.

"Sittin' on the beach,
The island king of love,
Deep in Fijian Seas,
Deep in some blissful dream,
Where the goddess finally sleeps
in the lap of her lover
Subdued in all her rage...
And I am aglow with the taste of the demons driven out
And happily replaced with the presence of real love
The only one who saves..."

Angel's eyes grew wide as he listened to the lyrics of the song, the singer's haunting words and deep voice touching him strongly. The song was so very much about them...the demon driven out and all was more true than anyone would ever know. He knew he glowed now, almost as much as Buffy herself did. Real love had conquered all once again, and he could fully experience it without feeling guilt or sorrow or worry about losing his soul. Sure, he was still sorry about what he had done. But to be honest, he didn't think of it as much anymore. Buffy made sure of that...

"Pretty nifty song, isn't it?" Buffy asked, grinning up at him. She tossed her head in the direction of the DJ and Angel followed her gaze to see Cordelia standing with her arms crossed thoughtfully over her chest, smiling at the couple. She winked and then was whisked away onto the dance floor.

"I take it she had something to do with this?" Angel replied. Buffy nodded and smiled.

"We were listening to this the other day and I started crying and so I guess she requested it for us."

"You cried?" Angel asked, gently lifting her chin with his hand. She nodded, eyes suddenly sparkling with unshed tears.

"It's just so beautiful, and so true, and I love you so much..." she whispered, leaning in closer to him. She stood on tiptoe to kiss him softly and Angel responded in kind, wrapping his arms tighter around her. Buffy broke away gently and rested her head on his chest once more.

"I wanna dance with you,
I see a world where people live and die with grace,
the karmic ocean dried up and leave no trace.
I wanna dance with you,
I see a sky full of the stars that change our minds
and lead us back to a world we would not face.

"The stillness in your eyes
convinces me that I,
I don't know a thing
and I been around the world and I've tasted all the wines,
A half a billion times came sickened to your shores,
You show me what this life is for..."

"Buffy," Angel called softly, causing her to lift her head from where it was tucked perfectly under his chin so she could look at him. "You do. Every day, you show me what I have to be thankful for...what I live for."

Buffy smiled happily at his revelation. "I know that compared to you I'm new to all this happy relationship stuff. But I'm--"

"Baby, there was no such thing as a happy relationship for me until you came along. You accepted me and you loved me and I can't even begin to tell you how much that means to me," he said, leaning down to kiss her softly once more. She clutched him to her, fearful that he would suddenly vanish into thin air.

"I wanna dance with you,
I see a world where people live and die with grace,
the karmic ocean dried up and leave no trace.
I wanna dance with you,
I see a sky full of the stars that change our minds
and lead us back to a world we would not face.

"In this altered state,
Full of so much pain and rage,
You know we got to find a way to let it go...

"Sittin' on the beach,
The island kind of love
Deep in Fijian Seas
Deep in the heart of it all...
Where the goddess finally sleeps
After eons of war and lifetimes,
she smilin' and free, nothin' left
but a cracking voice and a song, oh lord...

"I wanna dance with you,
I see a world where people live and die with grace,
the karmic ocean dried up and leave no trace.
I wanna dance with you,
I see a sky full of the stars that change our minds
and lead us back to a world we would not face...
We would not face...
We would not face...
We would not face...
We would not face...
We would not face..."

"A minute until the new millennium!" someone in the crowd shouted. Cries of happiness and excitement rose through the people, but Buffy and Angel were oblivious to it all. The world melted away, leaving them alone in their own special place, lit by the love that both felt coursing through their veins so strongly. They were staring, past the love, into the depths of each other's souls, searching out secrets and chasing away any darkness that lingered. They redeemed, they forgave, they fell in love all over again. The turn of the century signified the dawn of their new relationship, bringing with it the hope and happiness that a new year always brings.

"Ten! Nine! Eight!"

"I love you, Angel," Buffy whispered, "and there isn't anyone else I'd rather be with."

"Seven! Six! Five!"

"I love you too, Buffy. For the first time I'm sharing something incredibly special not just with you, but with people all over the world. I really feel like I belong again."

"Four! Three! Two!"

"You always have belonged," she said, bringing a hand up to cradle his cheek. "You just never realized it until now."

"One! HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

Their lips met in a frenzy of passion and love and desire. Hands clutched, needing to feel more contact, more skin... All around them, confetti rained down and those annoying little horns were blown, but Buffy and Angel were oblivious. They broke apart only when they were jostled by some drunken couple who pushed past them and began dancing crazily to the music.

"Sure, go and spoil my fun..." Buffy pouted, casting a nasty look at the couple. "Looks like a lot of people are starting to get a little tipsy." All around them, the drinks kept coming and people were getting loud and obnoxious.

"You think anyone would notice us sneaking off into a bedroom for an hour?" he asked, grinning wickedly. She matched his smile.

"Who the hell cares? Let's go ring in the New Year the right way."

"And then we can go home and do it properly," Angel said as he led her through the crowd. "With candles, and music--"

"And whipped cream!" Buffy cried. Angel laughed and stopped, kissing her suddenly.

"Oh yeah, can't forget desert," he said huskily. Buffy moaned and pulled him to her again.

"You hungry?" she teased.

"You offering?" he replied, pressing her against the wall. Her eyes grew wide as she realized what he meant, her cheeks growing a rosy pink.

"You know it," she whispered in a throaty voice. Angel groaned and closed his eyes, pressing his forehead to hers in an attempt to gain some control back. She was so mean... "I say we go home. Now. We can take the stairs," she said, breaking away from him with a sly grin and weaving through the people. Cordelia suddenly barged into their path, a drink in her hand and a gorgeous guy on her arm.

"Buffy! Angel! Happy New Year!" she cried, pulling both of them into a hug. Surprised, they hugged back.

"Happy New Year, Cordy," Buffy replied, eyeing the guy on her arm.

"Oh, this is Josh. He just did a Nike commercial," she said proudly. They exchanged smiles. "Are you two leaving?" she asked, suddenly suspicious. Buffy looked away and tugged at the hem of her skirt.

"Um...yeah, Angel...wants to go home. He has...a headache," Buffy said, knowing her friend was gonna make some comment.

Cordelia didn't disappoint. "A headache? I don't think so. I'm thinking something along the lines of that problem you two have, where you both turned into nymphos..."

"Well, it's either stay here and freak dance like so many of the drunks out there or go home and not annoy anyone with our PDA," Buffy said with a grin. Cordelia sighed.

"Well, I got you out of the house for a while, I guess you can go now."

"Thanks for your blessing," Angel snapped. Cordy grinned. "Oh, and take tomorrow off. I know I am."

Buffy looked up at him with a mischievous gleam in her eye. He slipped his arm around her thin shoulders. Cordelia rolled her eyes.

"Try to keep the foreplay down to a minimum in the elevator!" she called out at their backs. Buffy looked over her shoulder and winked at Cordelia, who quirked her eyebrow.

"When we go home, I'm thinking stairs," she said to Josh. He nodded and pulled her to him.

"She was kinda cute," he teased. Cordelia wrinkled her nose.

"Yeah, if you're into that blond, rather ditzy type. Besides, you don't stand a chance. You saw those two together."

"Are they always like that?" he asked with a laugh.

"No. They're usually a LOT worse."

Buffy and Angel thankfully had the elevator to themselves, and they took full advantage of it. A couple stood on the other side of the doors and exchanged glances as the two stepped out and adjusted their clothing.

"Wasn't that fun?" Buffy said as they got into Angel's car, her boyfriend holding the door open for her before climbing into his side. Angel smiled.

"Yeah...but it's nothing compared to the fun we'll have at home..." he replied with a smirk.

They arrived at Angel's apartment in a matter of moments, the drive only taking a few minutes. Miraculously, there was hardly any traffic and so they reached home safely. They were stripped before they even got down the stairs and ran to the bed, desire burning deep between them. No other words were spoken as clothes were littered on the stairs and in a tell-tale trail leading to their bed.

L.A. continued partying late into the night, but the Slayer and her ex-vampire didn't notice. They were too busy ringing in the New Year the way they had always wanted to.

Together.

With candle and soft music.

And whipped cream.

Life was good.


On to: A Day For Love